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Urea fertilizer scarcity hits Tea estates, planters for early solution in Assam

The shortage of urea fertilizer has hit the tea industry hard in Assam.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  30 Jun 2021 2:16 AM GMT


GUWAHATI: The shortage of urea fertilizer has hit the tea industry hard in Assam. It has turned to be a perennial one due to the alleged lack of monitoring & vigilance by the Agriculture Department and the black marketing of urea by a section of unscrupulous traders.

Urea is a must for the tea crop that is applied in three splits (phases) – March-April, June-July and August-September. Experts say that the main function of urea is to provide the plants with nitrogen to promote green leafy growth and make the plants look lush. Urea can provide only nitrogen and not phosphorus or potassium, and thus it is primarily used for bloom growth.

The Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizers Corporation Ltd (BVFCL) and Indian Potash Limited (IPL) are the authorized suppliers of the subsidized fertilizers in Assam.

There is a permanent urea shortage for the last few years all over the State.

The BVFCL and IPL have failed to bring urea to all districts regularly and based on a plan and system. No dealer knows when the next lot of urea is going to be available.

A section of dealers recently submitted a letter to the District Agricultural Officer, Kamrup Metropolitan district highlighting various problems in the fair-and-effective distribution of urea in the State.

"Urea is never available from godowns. Whenever a rake comes we have to arrange our transportation and move the urea to respective godowns at our own cost. In the case of the BVFCL urea, the dealers have to incur almost Rs 1,000 per tonne for this movement and storage. In the case of the IPL urea sometimes they provide from godown but most of the time we are asked to lift from the rake point which results in additional costs as mentioned above," the letter said.

According to dealers, other subsidized fertilizers like Single Super Phosphate (SSP), Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP) and Muriate of Potash (MOP) are regularly available from godowns and companies are bringing the other fertilizers in adequate quantity. But there is always an issue of inadequate supply in the case of a supply of urea by the fertilizer companies.

"Both BVFCL and IPL have been following tagging of fertilizers. Since urea is always in short supply, both BVFCL and IPL compel their dealers to buy either SSP or MOP or DAP or Rock Phosphate or Organic Manure. Despite dealers lifting non-urea products regularly, especially from IPL whenever urea comes, they tag non-urea fertilizers that are beyond the means of the dealers. This leads to the financial cost, godown expenses and selling these products in distress and at a loss. In such circumstances it is very difficult for the dealers to survive," the letter said.

Sources in the tea industry said taking advantage of the shortage of urea, some dealers are charging exorbitant prices for the material which is available in the black market.

"We are buying urea at exorbitant rates and this has added to the cost of production manifold. It will be difficult for many gardens to buy fertilizers at this high price which will affect production this year. The crisis will mainly hit the organized tea sector in the State. Since the small tea growers have a low cost of production they are purchasing huge quantum of urea from the dealers as well black marketers for massive production of green leaves. We cannot afford to do this. The government will have to ensure adequate supply of urea in the State," a tea planter of Upper Assam said.

Mushrooming of small tea growers in recent years has tripled the demand or requirement of urea, particularly during the Kharif season (June to September) every year. There are many registered and unregistered small tea growers in the State. These small tea growers are doing plantation wherever they get highlands. So unless and until the Agriculture department conducts a scientific and ground assessment of urea requirement, especially during the Kharif season, the shortage will become a perennial problem.

The Indian Tea Association (ITA) is in constant touch with the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and the Agricultural Directorate of the Assam Government in this regard. The association is demanding the earliest solution to the crisis.

When contacted, Vinod Seshan, Secretary to Government of Assam, Agriculture department with an additional charge of Director of Agriculture told The Sentinel that there is a problem of shortage of urea in the State. He said besides taking various remedial measures vigilance has been intensified to prevent unscrupulous traders from the black market all kinds of subsidized fertilizer, including urea.

"We are making enquiries regarding some dealers charging higher prices for urea, and take necessary action including cancellation of a dealership licence. The Agriculture Department is also assessing to find out the accurate requirement of urea annually for the year so that supply can be arranged accordingly," Seshan said.

Seshan said he will hold a meeting with all stakeholders of fertilizer supply in July 2021 to find out the root causes of urea shortage and ways to mitigate the same.

Also Read: Curb on sale of fertilizers in high price without registration ID in Lakhimpur

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